Gearing up for growth
Clive Stringer of Pitney Bowes considers why companies must invest in their mailing operations to cope with growth. Following an unsettled period of austerity for businesses, signs of recovery are emerging. UK economic growth remained steady in the first quarter of 2015 with growth predicted to increase in the second quarter1. In the same time period all four of the Eurozone’s largest economies – Germany, France, Italy and Spain – recorded growth for the first time since 20102. Achieving sustained growth is key to the success of businesses large and small. Ensuring the right systems, technology, processes and procedures are in place to maximise this growth is critical.
Mailing operations management in particular needs to be fast, efficient and accurate, and never more so than in times of growth. In fact, research has found that along with an economic upturn comes an increase in overall communications volume3, in particular for direct mail. This is down to a number of reasons including increased marketing budgets; higher customer numbers; an increased understanding of the value of omnichannel marketing; and due to consumer credit becoming more readily available, generating an increase in credit card bills and other transactional mail.
To cope with this growth, some companies invest in their own in-house mailing operations, while others choose to outsource their mailing requirements – and some do both. The choice is dependent on the nature of the business, the industry in which it operates, and the frequency, volume and sensitivity of the communications to be mailed. All options require careful management, cost control and a focus on maintaining precision and accuracy. But how can you be sure your mailing operations, or those of your mailing house, can cope with growth? Are they agile and flexible enough to manage last-minute increases in volume? And how will they cope with the increase in customer data, inevitable as business communications increase in volume? There are several questions to ask your service provider, or take into consideration for your own in-house high-volume mail operations. They can be classified into two main categories: those which address productivity and operational excellence, and those which address risk management and compliance.
Productivity and operational excellence:
- What is your maximum capacity for mailing output? How will this cope with a surge in activity?
- How flexible are you in dealing with last-minute changes to data and mailing volume?
- How does your operation deal with seasonal fluctuations, and how am I charged for these?
- How often do you renew your equipment, and when is the next renewal due? Which vendors do you intend to speak to?
- How does your mailing function integrate physical requirements with digital technology? E.g. is there a reporting dashboard to keep track of activity?
- How can I better manage mailing costs? Do you have software which can integrate data from different lines of business or different mailing houses, or conversely separate each line of business?
- What other analytics do you provide?
- Can you track mail end-to-end?
- How do you manage returns? Who has liability for those costs?
Risk Management and compliance:
- What processes, systems and policies do you have in place to protect clients’ data?
- What systems and technology do you have in place to eliminate error and ensure precision and accuracy?
- What are your procedures and liabilities in the event of a security breach?
- What disaster recovery and business continuity plans do you have in place in case of service outage?
- How can your mailing function help ensure compliance?
- Can your service provider sign a confidentiality agreement, to reassure you of the safety of your customer data?
A business geared up for growth
Marketing communications business Latcham Direct is a great example of a rapidly-growing business, keen to refresh its physical and digital mailing operations to maximise opportunities arising from its expansion. Latcham is a customer-centric organisation which prides itself on delivering innovative cross-media and digital print technology. The firm provides communications solutions across a range of sectors, including councils, local and central governments, financial services, utilities, membership organisations, retailers and the NHS. Precision and accuracy of communications is critical, due to the sensitive nature of Latcham’s work. For example, in 2014, the company managed the election production for 12 UK local authorities, and was responsible for producing 125,000 postal voting packs, over 6,500 ballot books and postal papers along with 500,000 poll cards.
The secure and sensitive nature of many of the documents the business produces for clients means that every piece of mail must be accounted for, with no room for error. Latcham asked its Pitney Bowes account team which technologies it recommended to minimise risk and eliminate error. The team recommended the Pitney Bowes RivalTM machine, due to its 2D barcode scanning for enhanced output integrity. Utilising Rival would also accelerate client value for Latcham, by increasing speed and efficiency, with the ability to enclose multipage statements. The new machine has a double camera system for added security and tracking capabilities.
The output from RivalTM will be further enhanced by the addition of a portable file-based integrity scanning system. Clients know Latcham can track every single piece of mail and provide them with a full audit trail, critical to helping them achieve compliance objectives. Over the past two years, Latcham has invested more than £1.5m in new equipment and has plans to continue investment in the latest technology to support its customers’ requirements.
Now, Latcham is perfectly positioned to deliver the absolute precision required by its clients, with accountability and integrity. It can focus on driving forward its business, achieving further growth and securing new business as it integrates physical and digital communications.
Businesses are preparing for growth now by identifying issues critical to their business and those of their clients; asking their vendors and service providers the right questions; and implementing mailing technology to address these issues. Taking these steps will ensure they optimise productivity and operational excellence, and ready themselves for growth.
1 CBI News
3 The Outlook for Mail Volumes to 2023, PWC for Royal Mail